French court tells Web site not to mark teachers

PARIS Mon Mar 3, 2008 10:25am EST

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PARIS (Reuters) - A French court ruled on Monday that a popular Web site can no longer let pupils name and shame their own teachers.

Following the example of successful U.S. sites, French entrepreneurs created note2be.com in January that encouraged students to grade teachers and discuss their ability.

Unions, backed by the education ministry, immediately took the site to court, saying the personal comments represented a breach of privacy and an "incitement to public disorder".

The judges backed their case and said the Web site could no longer identify any teachers by name and told the site's owners they faced a 1,000 euro ($1,517) fine for every infraction.

It also told them to pay a symbolic 1 euro fine and legal fees for some 30 teachers who had taken part in the court case.

"This is an astonishing and surprising decision that has worrying implications for the development of the Web," said Stephane Cola, who co-founded the site.

"The ranking and evaluation of professionals on the Web is a fundamental principle and a primary motor of the Internet around the world," he told reporters after the verdict.

However, unions hailed the outcome.

"We are totally satisfied by this ruling," said Francis Berguin, the head of the SNES teachers' union. "It is not up to pupils to mark their own teachers and certainly not on a commercial Web site," he told LCI news channel.

Note2be.com asked pupils to rate their teachers according to six categories -- how interesting, clear, fair, available, respectful and motivated they were. It also set up a rankings system to promote France's top 10 teachers.

Education Minister Xavier Darcos praised the court verdict, saying in a statement that he "totally supported teachers whose difficult mission will not be the object of anonymous attacks on the Internet".

The sometimes difficult working environment faced by teachers in France was underlined last week when a court sentenced a pupil to 13 years in jail after he stabbed and wounded a teacher who had complained about his behavior.

(Reporting by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Stephen Weeks)

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